Last year a friend of mine and I took our kids to the Houston Children’s Museum to play in their fabulous toddler area. While we were there I overheard a nanny talking to the volunteer pediatrician that was hanging out in the toddler area. She asked about her charge’s lack of verbal skills (he was about a year old, I heard her say, and only made grunting sounds instead of talking). He asked her if he watched TV and what he watched. She told him that his parents wouldn’t let her show him TV but she was required to sit him down in front of Baby Einstein videos for at least 3 hours a day. (YIKES!) The pediatrician told her that the Baby Einstein videos were a big part of why he wasn’t talking. The videos have little to no verbal interaction and kids just zone out and watch the colors instead of being actively engaged. The seemingly uninvolved, wealthy parents were doing their child more harm than good. Now there’s proof of what the Houston pediatrician said.
“Don’t fall for the marketing ploys that baby DVDs like Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby will make your infant smarter, according to the findings of a fascinating new study from the University of Washington that will be published tomorrow in The Journal of Pediatrics. Here are some of the findings:
•The researchers studied more than 1000 children ages 2 to 24 months, and found that babies (8 to 16 months) who watched these DVDs/videos had significantly lower scores on a classic language test. For each hour a day of viewing, they had a reduction in their score that was equivalent to knowing 6 to 8 fewer words. Babies in the study whose parents read a book to them every day had an increased verbal score that was only half as big.
•Watching educational TV or DVDs (like Sesame Street or Blue’s Clues) had no negative impact on language for babies—and neither did watching non-educational shows or movies (including Sponge Bob and The Little Mermaid).
•For toddlers (17 to 24 months), watching any type of TV or DVD had no negative impact on verbal skills—and it only had a small benefit.
It’s not surprising to me that Baby Einstein and other baby videos don’t boost language: They contain very few words. Instead, they’re full of random images and abstract colorful patterns. In fact, say the researchers, they’re “designed with only an approximate sense of [a baby’s] developmental needs, based on no formal research.” Of course, if your baby only watches one occasionally, it probably won’t slow her speech, but it certainly won’t put her on the fast track to preschool.”
Very interesting stuff, huh? I put Baby Van Gogh on when Aidan was small and I needed to get my homework done but she was always doing something else besides just vegging in front of the toob…at most, twice a week. After I heard that pediatrician talking to the nanny of the non-verbal 1 year old, I never put another Baby Einstein video on again. We’re book readers around here! Aidan has always preferred books to toys…that’s my girl!